Top 10 Countries on the Ring of Fire
What is the Ring of Fire? Some people relate this term to very hot curry’s, but in a geographical context the Ring of Fire is a zone that runs around the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Something like 90% of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes happen in the Ring of Fire. Tsunamis often occur as the result of large earthquakes and are most common in areas within the Ring of Fire.
The Ring of Fire is technically a number of ‘subduction zones’, subduction zones being areas where tectonic plates meet. Tectonic plates are pieces of the Earth’s crust that are constantly moving and reshaping the world. Don’t worry, they move as fast as your finger nails grow, around 3 cm per year.
There are subduction zones all around the Pacific Ocean with the Pacific Plate at the centre. They create zones where earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes are a constant threat.
Particularly active places around the Ring of Fire include Indonesia the Philippines, Japan, Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, the west coast of Canada, the west coast of the US, Peru, Chile and New Zealand.
Natural disasters noted in this list are those that relate directly to the Ring of Fire.
The Pacific tectonic Plate and North American Plate meet right along the west coast of Canada, creating a zone prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The population of Canada means that death tolls are thankfully low. However the country has recorded quakes up to 9.0 magnitude and some of the most powerful ever recorded.
Alaska sites on the North American tectonic Plate with the Pacific Plate running off its southern coast. As the population of Alaska is low and many areas are wilderness, death tolls remain thankfully low. However some of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded have occurred here.
Natural disasters in Alaska include:
1912. The Novarupta volcano erupted about 460 km (290 miles) from Anchorage. It was the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century and in the top 5 volcanic eruptions ever recorded. Ash was sent 100,000 feet into the air, basically to the edge of space. In the coming days the ash cloud would travel across the globe. Fortunately there were a number of earthquakes prior to the eruption and people fled the area. If such an eruption happened in New York the city would be destroyed and Philadelphia would be covered in one foot of ash.
1964. The Great Alaskan Earthquake measured 9.2 magnitude, making it the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded. There were 139 deaths and a tsunami that destroyed a number of Alaskan villages as well property as far away as Hawaii, Japan, California and Oregon. The largest tsunami wave occurred at Shoup Bay in Alaska where it reached 67 m (220 ft).
An interesting historical look at the Novarupta eruption.
8. New Zealand
The Pacific Plate takes a detour at New Guinea, heading east into the South Pacific and then sharply south to New Zealand. New Zealand marks the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the Indo-Australian Plate.
Natural disasters in New Zealand include:
1886. Mount Tarawera volcano erupted killing more than 100 people.
1929. An earthquake at Murchison was felt around the country and killed 17 people as well as causing large landslides.
1931. The Hawke’s Bay earthquake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and wrecked much of Hastings and Napier. More than 250 people died.
1968. A magnitude 7.1 earthquake near the community of Inangahua Juction kills three people and causes extensive damage.
2011. An earthquake in Christchurch kills 185 people, injures thousands and topples many city buildings.
A fantastic educational look at the tectonic plates in New Zealand.
7. United States
The US is famous for the San Andreas Fault that runs through California. This fault marks the boundary between the Pacific Tectonic Plate and the North American Tectonic Plate.
Natural disasters in the US include:
1857. Fort Tejon on the San Andreas Fault experienced a magnitude 7.9 earthquake that was stronger than the subsequent San Francisco earthquake. Although loss of life and property was low due to population density, it is a reminder of the potential strength of earthquakes in the US.
1906. The San Francisco earthquake killed more than 3,000 people and caused fires throughout the city. As much as 80% of the city was destroyed.
1952. Kern County in California experienced a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that claimed 12 lives and caused damage are far away as Nevada.
1980. In Washington State, the Mount St. Helen volcano erupts killing 57 people. It is preceded by a number of earthquakes that alert authorities to the potential eruption. Forced closure of the area to the public is estimated to have saved thousands of lives. This was the largest ever eruption in the US.
Footage of the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco
6. Kamchatka Peninsula
Natural disasters on the Kamchatka Peninsula include:
The Kamchatka Peninsula, part of Russia, lies on the Eurasian Plate at a pivoting point with the Pacific Plate. While information regarding deaths in the region are sketchy some of the largest earthquakes and tsunamis recorded have come from the region.
1923. An earthquake estimated to be a magnitude 8.5 caused a tsunami that inundated areas of Kamchatka. The resulting wave was still 6 m (20 ft) high when it struck Hawaii
1952. One of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded, estimated to be a 9.0 magnitude, occurred around 130 km’s (80 miles) offshore from Kamchatka. It caused a massive tsunami that caused several large waves up to 18 m (60 ft) high. This devastated many settlements on the peninsula and the tsunami waves were felt across the Pacific Ocean. More than 2,000 people died.
Lava flows on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The Middle America Trench runs along the Mexican coast and marks the joint between the Cocos, North American and Pacific Plates. The country has a history of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Natural disasters in Mexico include:
1973. An earthquake in Veracruz left as many as 1,200 people dead.
1982. El Chichon volcano erupted killing 2,000 people.
1985. The Mexico City earthquake caused an estimated 10,000 deaths although authorities believe it could be four times this number. Thousands of buildings throughout the city were damaged.
2003. Colima city recorded a 7.6 magnitude earthquake which left 29 people dead and hundreds injured and nearly 9,000 homes were destroyed or damaged.
Great archival footage of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake.
This is one of the only countries that doesn’t touch the Pacific Plate. Instead it lies along the border of the Nazca and South American plates but is still considered to be part of the Ring of Fire. Chile records high levels of rainfall that add to earthquakes and tsunamis as natural disasters to be feared here.
Chilean natural disasters include:
1868. An earthquake and massive tsunami kill 25,000 people.
1939. The 1939 Chilean earthquake was 8.3 magnitude and killed as many as 28,000 people. 95% of houses in the city of Concepcion were destroyed.
1960. The Valdivia earthquake was the largest earthquake ever recorded at magnitude 9.5. Up to 5,700 die and the resulting tsunami reaches Hawaii, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and the Philippines.
2010. An 8.8 magnitude earthquake off the Chilean coast, the sixth largest ever recorded, caused a tsunami that devastated coastal communities of Chile and even reached California where San Diego suffered damage. More than 500 people died and 370,000 homes suffered damage.
If you’ve ever wondered what an 8.8 magnitude earthquake would feel like, what the first half of this video.
Sitting between Indonesia and Japan, the Philippines have their very own tectonic plate, surrounded by the Pacific Plate on the east and the Eurasian Plate to the west. The Philippine Trench and Marianas Trench mark these boundaries.
Natural disasters in the Philippines include:
1911. Taal volcano erupts killing over 1,300 people.
1976. An earthquake in the Moro Gulf and the subsequent tsunami killed up to 8,000 people with many more missing or injured.
1990. This Luzon Island earthquake killed more than 1,600 people.
1991. Mount Pinatubo erupts in what was the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Over 800 people perished but it is estimated that tens of thousands of people were saved by evacuation procedures in the lead up to the blast.
2013. Tropical Cyclone Yolande (a massive hurricane), one of the largest storms recorded anywhere in the world caused havoc with winds over 300 kph (180 mph) and a storm surge up to 7 m (23 feet) high. Over 6,000 people were reported killed.
2013. A magnitude 7.2 earthquake caused more than 200 deaths.
Footage of Mount Pinatubo and effected areas.
The islands of Japan sit at the confluence of four tectonic plates – the Pacific, North American, Eurasian and Philippine. Japan has around 10% of all the earthquakes in the world, 10% of all the active volcanoes in the world and regular typhoons (hurricanes). Japan certainly challenges Indonesia as the most dangerous place on earth in terms of natural disasters.
Japanese natural disasters include:
1923. The Great Kanto Earthquake killed more than 100,000 people in and around Tokyo.
1993. The Hokkaido earthquake killed 202 people.
1995. An earthquake in Kobe killed more than 6,000 people.
2006. Typhoon Ewiniar kills 141 people. (It is thought that up to 10,000 people were killed by flooding in North Korea as a result of Typhoon Ewiniar.
2011. The Japanese tsunami of 2011 followed an earthquake 70 km’s (43 miles) from the coast. It was a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the fifth largest ever recorded. It created an upthrust on the ocean bed of up to 8 metres along a 180 km front. The tsunami was as high as 40 m (133 ft) and went as far as 10 km (6 miles) inland. More than 15,500 people died.
Amazing video showing the unstoppable power of a tsunami.
Indonesia consistently suffers from the worst natural disasters in the world. They have had some of the largest earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis ever recorded and lost more life than any other country in the world to natural disasters.
The islands that make up Indonesia, Sumatra and Java in particular, run along the length of a major subduction zone known as the Java Trench (also called the Sunda Trench). This is where the Eurasian Plate meets the Indo-Australian Plate.
The island of Java has 22 active volcanoes and 120 million people live on the island.
Indonesian natural disasters include:
1815. Mount Tambora erupts killing over 90,000 people. It remains one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions ever recorded.
1883. The volcanic island of Krakatau erupts. More than 36,000 people died. It was so loud it was heard in Perth, Australia. If a person had been within ten miles of it they would have been deafened. The shockwave circled the earth seven times. Ash went 80 km (50 miles) high and average global temperatures fell by 1.2 degrees the following year.
2004. The third largest earthquake ever recorded; magnitude 9.3, off the coast of Sumatra. A number of tsunami’s resulted killing 167,000 Indonesians and more than 230,000 people in 14 countries.
2006. An earthquake just south of Yogyakarta on the island of Java kills over 5,000 people and injures more than 35,000. It is thought up to 1.5 million people were left homeless.
2009. This 7.9 magnitude earthquake of the coast of Sumatra kills more than 1,300 people and directly effects over 1 million people.
Amazing footage of the 2004 Indonesian earthquake and tsunami.
The earthquake that caused the 2011 tsunami in Japan was so big that is accelerated the spin of the Earth. Our days are now 1.8 microseconds shorter than they were. Geologists reported that St. Louis moved during the quake. It was only a fraction of an inch, but it was half a world away.
Top 10 Countries on the Ring of Fire
6. Kamchatka Peninsula
7. New Zealand
9. United States